Activity of brown and beige adipocytes could contribute to breed differences in fat deposition. Therefore, we compared the abundance of markers for adipocyte types in steers from three cattle breeds differing in fat deposition (Japanese Black, Holstein, Charolais). Markers for white (leptin (LEP)), beige (transmembrane protein 26 (TMEM26), uncoupling protein 1 (UCP1)), and brown adipocytes (Zic family member 1 (ZIC1), UCP1) were analysed by quantitative reverse transcription PCR in subcutaneous fat (SCF), intramuscular fat (IMF), intermuscular fat (IRMF), perirenal fat (PF) and visceral fat (VF). LEP messenger RNA (mRNA) was less abundant in VF compared with other depots (P<0.05). TMEM26 was weakly but evenly expressed in all depots in all animals, whereas UCP1 mRNA showed higher individual variation in some depots. ZIC1 was not detectable in VF and PF but abundant in SCF, IMF and even more abundant in IRMF (P<0.05). No significant breed differences were detected. Using antibodies against UCP1, TMEM26 and ZIC1, we demonstrated that fat depots of 26-month-old cattle still comprise different adipocyte types. However, our results did not support the hypothesis that higher energy expenditure associated with higher abundance or activity of beige or brown adipocytes contributed to differences in fat deposition.